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Corporate Jets Land in Tampa for Republican Convention

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Aug. 28 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama has zeroed in on tax breaks for corporate jets as a way to reduce the federal deficit.

Now, some passengers of those jets may be returning fire. Corporate jets are starting to buzz air traffic control at Tampa International Airport in Florida during the Republican National Convention. Cessna’s Citations appear to be the craft of choice, outpacing French-made Dassaults and the Gulfstream V, the president’s plane for unofficial business, Bloomberg reported on its Political Capital blog.

A three-engine, 10-seat Dassault Falcon 50, registered to John R. Miller Enterprises III LLC of Salt Lake City, landed at Tampa yesterday afternoon, according to Flightaware.com, a website that tracks the registration and routes of airplanes. That likely belongs to Mitt Romney donor John R. Miller of Salt Lake City, the former chief executive officer of National Beef Packing Co. He was also national co-chairman of Romney’s finance committee in 2008. A message left for Miller at Solamere Capital LLC, a Boston-based private equity firm where Miller is an operating partner, wasn’t returned.

In the past few days, four Cessna Citations have landed at Tampa. A pair of Dassault Falcons and two makes of Gulfstream have touched down, according to Flightaware.com. Republican planners expect more to arrive later in the week, leading up to Romney’s Aug. 30 acceptance speech.

Obama has proposed ending the tax break for corporate jet owners, which could save Treasury an estimated $3 billion over a decade.

‘Sufficiently Important’

“It would be hard for the Republicans to stand there and say that the tax break for corporate jets is sufficiently important that we’re not willing to come to the table and get a deal done,” Obama said during a White House news conference on June 29, 2011, as he sought to pressure Republicans to increase the debt limit. He mentioned corporate jets six times in that press conference.

If members of the corporate jet set are easily vilified, they aren’t easily traced. Most of the mid-sized, long-range corporate jets that have landed in Tampa are registered to private charter companies like Flight Options or NetJets, making it difficult to know which corporate leaders are reclining in their leather seats at 35,000 feet.

For example, a Cessna Citation X, billed as the fastest civilian aircraft in production with a top speed of Mach .92, arrived from Chester, Pennsylvania, yesterday morning. Its tail number, OPT732, is registered to Flight Options, a Cleveland-based company that claims to be the second-largest company in the private-jet industry.

Teterboro Airport

A Gulfstream V operated by Executive Jet Management landed from New Jersey’s Teterboro airport, which has shorter security lines than Newark.

The Citation versus Gulfstream debate comes down to speed versus distance. The Citation X is faster, but the G-V has a range of close to 6,000 nautical miles, which can go to Tokyo without refueling.

Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, has access to a private jet for its executive’s use.

Obama himself is familiar with the light-as-a-mosquito ascent and wood-paneled interior of the G-V, even if he wants to change its tax depreciation schedule. He boarded an Air Force G-V when he hopped to New York City in June 2009 to take first lady Michelle Obama to a dinner and a show. By virtue of the president being on the plane, it was Air Force One for the night. The press flew off his wing in an identical plane.

To contact the reporter on this story: Hans Nichols in Washington at hnichols2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net